5 Small Restaurant Design Ideas

/ Industry Tips, Restaurants / August 1

Small Restaurant Design Ideas

Whether you’re opening a new establishment or remodeling an old neighborhood gem, developing a restaurant’s layout and design can be tricky. Everything from the wall art to the spacing requires a conscious decision.

The challenge is even greater if you’re tight on space. Some locations only have one large room at the front of the house. But don’t worry! We have five small restaurant design ideas to make the most of your location.

Establish a Floor Plan

Before you decide on seating and embellishments, come up with a solid floor plan. A small restaurant floor plan should have a proper kitchen to dining space ratio. Most experts agree you should allocate 60 percent of your total space for the dining area and 40 percent of your entire space for the kitchen and prep area.

In the dining area, make sure to space tables and chairs appropriately. Many services and resources are available for small restaurants to plan your table layouts, including SeatingExpert.com. They suggest having 18 inches between each occupied chair, 42-60 inches between each square table and 24-30 inches between the corners of diagonal tables. Also, try to diversify your seating options with booths, banquet tables, four-person tables and two-person bistro tables.

As you organize your commercial kitchen, make sure to create designated stations as part of the floor plan. There are a wide variety of ways to lay out the kitchen, but you should include at least these four core stations:


  • Hot station – Houses cooking equipment like ranges, warmers, fryers and grills

  • Cold station – Includes refrigerators, freezers and coolers

  • Prep and baking station – Where you do things like chop, knead and mix

  • Cleaning station – Has multiple sinks and dishwasher for cleaning dishes, cookware, utensils and more

Other zones can be set up for plating, deserts and salads, depending your kitchen’s size. You should have at least a small area designated for loading and storage. In the back of the house near the kitchen, have a mid-size room that can act as an office and break room for the staff.

Create an Inviting Entryway

The entryway typically gives patrons a first impression of your establishment. For a small restaurant, there might not be a ton of space to work with, but there are tricks you can use to maximize the front of your restaurant.

If your space has a separate area or front room, try to include a couple of small couches, benches or chairs. This will allow people waiting for a table to be comfortable. If the entrance leads right into the dining area, make sure the floor plan dedicates enough room to create a seamless flow. Consider adding ledges or small partisans behind the hosting station to help isolate the entryway while still showcasing the atmosphere of your dining room and bar.

The Bar-Small Restaurant Design Ideas

Make Your Bar the Focal Point

Unlike larger restaurants that can divide the bar and dining room, some smaller locations don’t have this luxury. In that case, make the bar a focal point at the front of the house. In a wider space, have the bar situated in the back, so it catches the eyes of patrons who walk in. If you have a narrow location, consider having the bar on either the right or left side with dining tables flanked on both sides. Make sure to leave enough width between the tables and bar top area.

Aside from decor and embellishments (we’ll get to that later), start by creating a catchy display with your liquor and barware. Then, play around with the bar lighting by adding LED shelves or hanging fixtures. Either option will bring a glow the space to make it stand out from the rest of the dining area.

Decorate According to the Atmosphere

Décor is a must for any small restaurant design, but whatever you choose to adorn the walls, ceilings and floors depends on the theme of your place. For instance, a sports bar would need to have plenty of banners, jerseys and memorabilia throughout the space. A more sophisticated spot, on the other hand, should have tasteful paintings, plants and wall art.

But there is much more to decorating than just artwork on the walls. Certain themes can either help your place feel cozy or appear larger. Color is one way to capture the mood of any environment. Red, beige or other dark colors create a cozy atmosphere while light hues like green, blue or white give the feeling of a large, open space. Mirrors also help create the illusion of more space, making your space appear longer or wider.

Find Sweet Spots for TVs

Depending on the theme of your location, too many TVs in a small space can be overwhelming not only for patrons but also on your utility and cable bills. As we established earlier, the bar or countertop dining area should be the focal point when you’re tight on space, so your televisions should be positioned nearby.

If your restaurant is in a narrow location where the bar top is on the right or left side of the room, have a TV mounted on each side of the bar. For a wider, square-shaped space where the bar is toward the back, have TVs mounted not only to each side of the bar but also two near the front of the dining area. If your restaurant has more a of sports-bar feel to it, consider adding an additional television or two to air multiple games and events.


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